Friday, 19 May 2017

Bust Stolen from Villa Adriana Turned up on Market

While some collectors and dealers are willing to pay high
prices for a rare cultural object although it may be stolen,
the public needs to be better informed about what to look for
and the questions to ask before making a purchase

Giulia Domna’s Story of Illicit Trafficking Unite for Heritage May 15th 2017
On 2 December 2016, Dutch police returned the 2nd century marble bust of Roman Empress Giulia Domna to the Italian authorities. The 31-centimetre head had been stolen in 2013 during an exhibition at the Canopus Museum at the Villa Adriana (Tivoli), a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. [...] The story picks up when two Dutch citizens consigned Giulia for auction at Christie’s in Amsterdam in 2015. Christie’s’ staff became suspicious even though they found no listing for the sculpture in databases of stolen art. As the bust was recognized from photos taken at the Villa Adriana and questions of provenance were raised, Christies contacted the Dutch and Italian authorities. The professional approach of the auction house was key to the joint criminal investigation that immediately got underway. It led to the police seizure of the bust of Giulia Domna, and to the arrest and prosecution of the Dutch citizens who had stolen it and then tried to put it on the market. 
And their naming and shaming?
The bust has been on display at the “Recovered Treasures” exhibition at UNESCO, which is sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. Her next stop is back home at the Villa Adriana. 

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